As you see from the post dates, this blog is no longer maintained.


Jupiter, its moons and the Sun

NASA's STEREO (Behind) COR1 spacecraft (STEREO is a pair of spacecraft launched in 2006 in opposite directions. They have different angles on the Sun, providing solar astrophysicists a 3D view of our nearest star.) have taken 30 hours of images on March 15-16 (2009) which have been compressed into an 11 second animation by NASA. It shows Jupiter, with its four big moons , as it drifts behind the Sun from the spacecraft’s viewpoint. Read more at the NASA STEREO web page.

Thanks to Phil Plait at Discover for pointing us to this video.


Near Earth Objects - DD45's Near Miss

I listened to  an interview with Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, Queens University Belfast  on the  the March 8 (2009)  Naked Scientist podcast from Cambridge.

Chris Smith  and Alan discuss DD45, "a small asteroid. It's about between 20-40m across. It was discovered only just over a week ago, on Friday 27th February. It passed our planet by at a distance of only 72,000km on Tuesday.
Chris - That's extremely close. That's, let's put that in perspective. Satellites orbit the Earth about 25,000 miles out. That's only twice as far away as a geostationary satellite.
Alan - That's right. Occasionally we do spot these small asteroids coming past us. Objects of that size hit the earth probably about once every 2-300 years. We're not quite sure how often they hit us at the moment but they hit us on time scales of centuries.
Chris - Had this thing not been seventy thousand kilometres away and it had actually landed on the Earth what sort of damage would it have done? How would it compare with, say, the object that wiped out the dinosaurs?
Alan - Well, it's much smaller than that. The object that wiped out the dinosaurs was about ten kilometres across and had global consequences. Those objects only hit us about once ever hundred million years. An object that can cause climate change can be as small as one kilometre across, however. Even they only hit us once every million years or so. Something this size may have been similar to the object that entered our atmosphere over Tunguska in Siberia in 1908. It may have exploded low down in the atmosphere if it had entered our atmosphere and perhaps about a few kilometres up. It would have wiped out several square thousand kilometres of ground."
You can download the MP3 of the interview here or listen to it on the podcast web page.  The interview was part of the 8th Mar 2009 - Your Questions and Swallowing Swords podcast.  I encourage you to subscribe to this podcast - it is always interesting!


Streaming Video from Space

"Image above: Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov (left) and Commander Mike Fincke conduct a spacewalk. Credit: NASA TV"

This Press announcement from NASA caught our attention yesterday:
HOUSTON -- Internet visitors can now see the Earth as never before -- live from the International Space Station via streaming video, seven days a week.

The streaming video views of Earth and the exterior structure of the station are from cameras mounted outside the laboratory complex, orbiting Earth at 17,500 miles an hour at an altitude of 220 miles. The video is transmitted to the ground -- and Web viewers -- primarily while the astronauts aboard the complex are asleep, usually from about 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. CST. When live feeds are not available, a map showing the current location and path of the station will be streamed from NASA's Mission Control in Houston.

The streaming video will include audio of communications between Mission Control and the astronauts, when available. When the space shuttle is docked to the station, the stream will include video and audio of those activities.
Check this web page to see where the space station is in real time (watch this page for a bit, and see how quickly the Station orbits the Earth!) , and this page to help you pinpoint the exact minute when the International Space Station will be visible from your city.

Click on the image to go to the tracker page

There are more videos on NASA's YouTube Channel.

Background information: "The International Space Station, a unique partnership between the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe. Construction began in 1998 and will be completed in 2010. Eighteen crews have lived aboard the orbiting complex since 2000, including the current crew of three. Station residents have conducted important scientific experiments and gathered data to help assist future missions to the moon and Mars." (link)